What’s Happening in 2017

Hello everyone.

The blog is on hiatus right now.

For the past two years I’ve used this blog to talk about…

  • Story Structure
  • Creativity
  • Novel Writing
  • Health/Inspiration/Motivation

Now it’s time for me to bring all that research to bear on my own novel. Book 1 of my fantasy series, Turtle Island, is still in the works.

I’ve been working with a professional developmental editor for the past 8 months. My novel is coming along, and in the meantime I’m getting a crash course in writing from someone who does what I want to do – someone who deals in words for a living. Most importantly, I’m getting direct feedback on my writing. Which is scary, and painful, and exactly what I need.

I still plan to have the novel published on Amazon in 2017. But because this is my first time going through the process, it’s hard for me to judge exactly what month I’ll be able to publish.

My blog hasn’t slowed to a halt because I don’t care about writing anymore; it’s just that, I’m trying to stop talking about writing and do the damn thing.

When I do re-start the blog, I’m actually considering doing it in the form of a podcast. In my podcast I plan to break down famous novels, especially fantasy trilogies and series like…The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. The podcast will be the result of some intense reading and studying I’ve done in preparation for my own fantasy trilogy. Because how better to learn than by taking notes from the greats?

 

But the podcast is not right now. Right now I’m in radio silence mode. Working my day job, day dreaming about writing during my day job, and coming home every evening to write.

So that’s where I’m at. When I’m back here next, I’ll be carrying a basket of good news.

 

Hairy Animals

I pride myself on my physical fitness. It’s one of the few things in life that I’ve truly earned, not just inherited.

Fitness wins competitions. Talent only matters for the 1% of competitors at the highest level.

In the NBA, or NCAA basketball, every player has peak physical conditioning. This means that the fitness “playing field” is actually quite level. Only after fitness becomes a non issue, do skill and focus become the game changers. The best teams have the most talent and the most drive.

But if you yank two Joe Bobbys off the street, and you put them in a game of one-on-one against each other… Or maybe you have them race 500 meters… Or maybe swim across a pond… Or teach them any new game: rugby, soccer, baseball, anything…

The winner is the fittest person. Not the most skilled, because both have low skill levels, but the person who can breath steady the longest.

Somebody once said that if your life has gone to shit, if you’ve really hit rock bottom and don’t know which way is UP – then the first thing to do is go to the gym. (I hate gyms and would never recommend them, but it’s still a good quote.)

This is important because if 20 people go to a job interview. If 20 people take a piano class. If 20 people learn to dance. If 20 people learn how to invest money. If 20 people fall into loving relationships…

The physically fit people always have an advantage.

Life will drag you across the concrete by your pinky toe one day, and when that day comes, you want to have all the advantages you can get. You want cookies in your lunchbox, not rocks.

The skills above don’t require you to run five miles or throw a rubber ball around. But they do require that you sleep well, eat well, show up on time, think clearly, take criticism, give criticism, stand your ground, follow through, negotiate with honesty, speak clearly, meet goals, compensate, judge a situation objectively, and relax when it’s time to relax.

 

Bombing of Darwin

The bombing of Darwin, Australia happened 75 years ago.

Soon after Pearl Harbor took place in December of ’41, the Australian government decided to evacuate the city of Darwin. Darwin was an important Allied base on the northern edge of Australia, providing access to Asia and the pacific.

Most residents of Darwin loaded onto ships that ferried them south to the bigger cities like Perth and Melbourne and Sydney. Passengers took turns manning the scopes – looking, watching, waiting, scanning the surface of the water for periscopes.

Australia had a good hunch that the Japanese would come for Darwin sooner than later.

Sure enough in February, just a couple months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese dropped bombs on the Darwin base and the surrounding cities. Hundreds died on the first day, residents and military members both. A destroyer called the USS Peary sunk after being hit by five bombs. (USS Peary still rests in the Darwin harbor today, under about 90 feet of water.)

The Japanese air raids continued over the next few years until America finally ended the war with atom bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Japanese ambassadors, Australian governors and American military members were all present for the 75 year anniversary memorial service this past weekend.

The Truman Show

 

It’s the wild west out here, a cowboy town with more jellyfish than people. Every truck has an exhaust snorkel, a spare gasoline tank, and a hatchet strapped to the hood. Palm trees, ficus trees, birds that belong on the cover of a national geographic magazine. Two seasons instead of four (that’s half!), a rainy one and a dry one

The city of Darwin (where I’m at) is closer to Papa New Guineau / Indonesia than it is to Sydney or Melbourne. The soil here is red, the water aqua green. It’s very strange to look at the water and think, there’s a whole handful of crocodiles in there somewhere, just sleeping in the mud and blinking.

My legs are sore from running because the best way to learn your new city is to run around it in a circle.

Right when I graduated college the economy crashed. And my solution for better or worse has always been, “Go wherever the hell the jobs are.” For that reason I’ve lived in a lot of tourist towns.

I feel at ease with the transient vibe of a tourist town. Tourists are happy and their faces aren’t stuck in a mold. Each day is a new experience and so people are more likely to smile, more likely to slow down, go for walks, buy another drink.

But the truth is, Northern Australia is a very weird place.

It’s weird for now, but after you live in a city for 3-6 months, you inevitably grow accustomed to the cooky and the odd. You learn how to buy groceries. You start to talk like the locals. Your brain starts to believe that where you live is normal life.

My problem is that I was born suspicious.

Open Season

Writing Set Up

Travel is bad for art. Wine is bad for art. Staying up late is bad for art.

What my art needs is a plastic chair and a uniform schedule.

My dream is to turn my hobbies into professional pursuits, which has the dual effect of 1) earning money and 2) spending more time doing what I enjoy and less time “working”. It’s a snowy peak I’m aiming for. But other creators have made it – they’re busy making it this very minute – and all I have to do is follow their boot prints.

The good new for regular guys like me is, whatever your wildest dream is, somebody’s already achieved it.

Billionaire? Civil Rights Giant? Lead Vocalist? Restaurant Owner?

Oh baby it’s all been done a million times. You just have to find the right blueprint is all.

You just have to bounce around a few different cities, a few different careers, and a few different relationships first. You have to watch the first third of your life slide by. Or however long it is, to realize that nobody’s gonna bring the holy grail to your doorstep. Nobody’s gonna push your ass up the ladder because nobody feels bad for you.

It’s not that we’re jerks, we’re just too busy feeling bad for ourselves.

When you realize that it’s all your fault, then magically the prison door falls off it’s hinges. Now you can take your blueprint and spread it across the table like a treasure map. Draw a line from A to B and walk it like a mile-high tightrope. You owe it to the kid you used to be.

Pseudocide

Darwin CBD Sunrise

Ken Kesey committed pseudocide after being sentenced to prison for the possession of marijuana. He left a suicide note in his truck, parked it at the edge of a cliff in California, and took off with his friends to Mexico.

Huck Finn also committed pseudocide. He wanted to get away from his alcoholic father and go on adventures. There’s a brilliant scene where Huck and Tom hide in the rafters of the funeral home during Huck’s funeral. That scene made an impression on me as a kid. (What will they say about me when I’m gone?)

A pseudocode is a little death, and death is good for us in small doses.

The pressures of life expand like steam in a chamber and they need to be released or else. And sometimes man, a two week vacation just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes a vacation is a torturous little tease. The first dagger is a dreary life, but the second dagger is gazing into the future and realizing that nothing’s likely to change.

The doctor tries to patch you with pills, but really what you need is a micro dose of death and rebirth.

For some it’s a breakup or a divorce. For some it’s a new job, a new town. A psychedelic trip or a road trip. Quitting the habit you never thought you could quit.

These things feel like death. But now you’re reborn, and what will you call yourself? Maybe you’ll leave your iPhone in the drawer for a week and who cares? Time is on your side. The rainy days are even lovelier than the sunny ones. You suddenly realize that time travel is a waste. Because the men in black flashed a red light in your face and erased the past. People still warn you about tomorrow and her army of troubles, but you take it all with a grain of salt, because anyone who purports to read the future is a liar.

You’re like Huck Finn in the rafters, or Ken Kesey crossing the Mexico border. You’ve got $5 in your pocket, a sunburn on your neck, and a backpack full of apples. Once your soul is weightless, then baby you can really fly.

All Eyes On Me

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You’d think I was a supermodel, but they only want me for my money.

In Bali everyone honks at me. I can’t go 20 feet down the street without being yelled at.  A taxi driver sees me from a mile away, slows down, and starts banging on his horn to get my attention. On a good day I ignore every single one of them. On a bad day, the attention drives me fucking crazy.

My gut reaction is anger and protest. Usually I just pretend I don’t notice. Otherswise I’d spend 8 hours a day smiling and bowing and saying “no thank you.”

One of my favorite feelings in the whole wide universe is walking into a coffee shop, sitting in the back corner by the window, listening to music and watching the movie of the world go by. It’s the happy place I travel to when everyone’s staring at me.

I try to slow the anger when I feel they’re using me. Why? Mostly because I can’t change anything by lashing out.

But also because these experiences give me sympathy. They give me sympathy for women who are all too used to getting stared at, followed, propositioned. They give me sympathy for people who’ve NEVER been able, physically, to blend into the crowd. They even give me sympathy for rich (by american standards) people, because I’m sure your friends and family know you’ve got money.

When I was at the market last week I few things, among them was a bag of chips. The cashier stopped in the middle of ringing me up and said, “These are 50,000 – is it OK?” 50,000 idk is about $3.50 usd. The cashier was essentially asking me, “are you really going to spend so much money on a bag of chips? That same money could buy dinner for four.”

That sir, is a good point.

Beginner’s Luck

When you’re new at something, you’re standing at the base of a mountain and there’s only one place to go – up.

If I picked up a saxophone today, my improvement from Day 1 to Day 30 would be astronomical. My improvement from Day 30 – 60 would be great, but not quite as drastic. By the time I’m performing in the saxophone olympics, I’m only improving in very small increments from year to year. Why? Because now I’m the straight-laced superman of symphony.

When you’re new it’s easy to improve. So easy that it looks like magic and we have to make up a name for it, we call it “beginner’s luck.”

Newborn babies know all about beginner’s luck. Newborn babies couldn’t be dumber. They have ALL the knowledge of the universe in front of them, none behind.

Yesterday the little guy couldn’t talk, but today he’s yelling “cookies!” From words to sentences, from crawling to running, he’s smashing past those life milestones at 100 miles per. Little kids don’t bother with rear view mirrors. They just think, “What’s next man?” First bicycle? First kiss? First job? Bring it yo!

Then we get older and the mountaintop levels off. Now we’re walking a level ridge. Looking into the void on either side causes our knees to start knocking, so instead we look ahead, eyes on the prize. As adults, a few or our skills have now been sharpened into money-making skills; so… just keep doing what got you to the dance.

But…

But man it’s fun to be a kid. In any small way you can swing it. It’s fun to suck at something and get better fast. You impress with your progress. And if you screw up? Who cares, you’re only a newbie! It’s fun to stretch your legs again. Your legs miss the feeling of storming that mountain at a 45 degree angle. It’s good because it’s fun, that’s all.

And who among us dares to pretend, “I’ve got more than enough fun in my life, thank you.” I love you but I don’t believe you.

Dawn and Dusk

Few things are impossible, but describing a sunset is one of them. It’s like trying to take a selfie with a skyscraper or recreate a Beatles song using only a rock and a stick. You might as well teach a tiger to play checkers. You might as well give up before you start.

What would you say to somebody who had never seen the sun set over the ocean? “Well there were lots of yellows, and then the yellows turned to oranges, and then…”

Some people don’t know this, but our Earth is connected to a parallel universe of magic. We are only connected to this magical universe twice a day – ever day at Dusk and Dawn – during these two times we swing just close enough to this magical universe that a tiny bit of it bleeds through.

The change that takes place during sunset (or sunrise) is blatantly subtle. You know some wacky magic is happening right in front of your eyes, but it’s faster than a hummingbird and gone before you even grab. You can’t freeze it. To take a picture of a sunset is like drawing a rainbow with only one crayon. This is because a sunset dances, not walks, across the red carpet of time. A sunset moves as slowly and surely as your fingernails grow. It moves at the speed of a blooming rose, a climbing vine, a ripening fruit. It moves at the rate that a child grows. You know it’s happening, but you can’t pinpoint exactly where.

Another big problem is, in order to describe an ocean sunset you’d have to somehow re-create wind through the viewers hair. A chilly wind but slightly warm. A wind that isn’t cold but is somehow getting colder. A sunset is not all about color, it’s not all about light, it’s also the air density, the twist of the wind, the blue blanket of night being draped across the bedtime sky.

Sunsets just wouldn’t be romantic if they made sense from all angles. The day belongs to science, and the night belongs to rest, these things are well understood. But the dusk and the dawn, those are something else entirely. Something that reminds us of the truths we knew before we got born.

Travel for Dummies

7 years ago when I was traveling through Europe, I remember showing up to a random town in Italy, stepping off the train and thinking, “Well, time to go knock on some doors and see if I can find a place to sleep.”

These days, I book my airbnb as soon as I’m done buying a plane ticket to a new country. When I arrived in Bali, my airbnb host arranged a taxi pickup at the Denpasar airport. Now that I’m here, I call an Uber whenever I need a ride. I use the “go-jek” app on my iPhone to order delivery from any restaurant in town. I have three different mobile banking apps that allow me to constantly check on my funds, set travel notices, and transfer money between accounts. I know the currency rate before I go, and thanks to Facebook groups, I already know exactly how and where to exchange cash. The world has never been smaller or better connected.

World Travelers used to have to be super savvy. World Travelers used to wear fanny packs and Crocodile Dundee hats, and they had to keep all of their cash squirreled away in secret money belts.

A smart phone is all you need now. Somebody has already written a blog, posted a video, and documented the exact kind of trip that you want to take.

The way I see it, the internet has taken the initial shock out of travel. Showing up, finding a place to stay, getting local currency – these are the principal pains-in-the-ass that the internet has improved for all of us.

But the magical gems are still out there, buried in the desert. Because once you plop down in a new part of the world, then you start to meet people. And those people plug you into the culture – which is what you still can’t get online – the local markets, the smells, the sun, the smiles. Now the gate opens and the journey jumps off.